It’s sad that it even has to be said in this day and age, but I was infuriated to read this week about London-based receptionist, Nicola Thorp, who was sent home from work after refusing to wear high heels to her job at PwC.
I mean, seriously?
Look, no one loves heels more than I do: I pretty much live in the things, and wouldn’t have it every other way.
Not everyone is like that, though: or even WANTS to be like that – and that’s perfectly OK.
I know tons of women who either can’t wear heels, or just don’t want to: some find them uncomfortable, others have health issues that make heel-wearing dangerous for them – and some women just don’t like them. Which is fair enough, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not like there are no other options, or that you can’t look professional in a pair of low heels or flats. You absolutely can: but when Nicola Thorp pointed out that wearing a smart pair of flats wouldn’t affect the quality of her work in any way at all – and that wearing heels WOULD, because she wasn’t able to walk in them – she was told to go and buy a pair of heels, or go home.
So she went home: because what other option did she have, really? Should she have been forced to spend the entire day in agony, or unable to walk, purely to meet an unfair and discriminatory dress code?
And look: I understand dress codes, too. I used to manage people in a customer service role, and would occasionally have to address the issue of people turning up to work in outfits that weren’t appropriate for a business setting. As a small business owner, meanwhile, if I employed a member of staff who was going to be meeting clients as part of their job, I would absolutely expect them to be dressed professionally. What I wouldn’t expect, however, would be for them to wear something that made them uncomfortable, or which prevented them from moving around freely, purely to live up to MY idea of what looks attractive.
Because, let’s face it: this isn’t about PwC wanting their female staff to look “professional”, isn’t it? There’s nothing inherently “unprofessional” about a pair of low-heeled shoes, after all, so they can’t possibly argue that a member of staff wearing them would reflect badly on the company image. No, what this is really about is a misguided an old-fashioned idea that women should look physically “attractive” – and that the only way to do that is by conforming to a particular stereotype, involving heels. Thanks, PwC, for proving once again that even in 2016, women are still being primarily judged by their personal appearance, and expected to look “attractive” at all costs. Who cares if you can do the job, after all – as long as you’re doing it in heels, that’s all that matters to some employers.
I applaud Nicola Thorp for making a stand – in her low-heeled shoes! – against this kind of sexism: I’m just saddened that such a stand even needs to be made.
From what I understood from the article (on the BBC website, the only source I read on this story), it wasn’t PwC’s dress code but that of the temp agency she was contracting through. I might have misread it though.
That’s so awful! I really understand Nicola – I’m not a heel girl myself. I wear heels only couple times a year. This is one of those things that really is bothering me because in couple of months I will need to find my first job and I’m not the girl who has clothes in her closet that would be those professional.
At my office we have had to send a woman home for inappropriate shoes but they were Lucite platforms. If we could have got her to wear flats she would probably still be working in our office.